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Photographs of the rugged landscape of Badlands National Park make up the backdrop for video game racing in the “Badlands Byway” race track.
Photographs of the rugged landscape of Badlands National Park make up the backdrop for video game racing in the “Badlands Byway” race track.
Black and white images of the Black Hills, including Mount Rushmore under construction, give a vintage 1940s feel to the “Black Hills Backroads” track.
Black and white images of the Black Hills, including Mount Rushmore under construction, give a vintage 1940s feel to the “Black Hills Backroads” track.
“Rushmore Scenic Byway” is a fictional blending of South Dakota’s Needles Highway and Iron Mountain Road into a video game race track.
“Rushmore Scenic Byway” is a fictional blending of South Dakota’s Needles Highway and Iron Mountain Road into a video game race track.
Familiar Black Hills landmarks like Crazy Horse Memorial greet drivers as they race around turns on “Rushmore Scenic Byway.”
Familiar Black Hills landmarks like Crazy Horse Memorial greet drivers as they race around turns on “Rushmore Scenic Byway.”
“Virtual” NASCAR stock cars race by the Needles rock formations in Custer State Park in this video game version of the famous highway.
“Virtual” NASCAR stock cars race by the Needles rock formations in Custer State Park in this video game version of the famous highway.
Actual photos of the Needles and other Black Hills scenery give the track an additional sense of realism.
Actual photos of the Needles and other Black Hills scenery give the track an additional sense of realism.

Racing Through the Black Hills

Jan 30, 2012

My job is to promote South Dakota as a travel destination. I do that with photography, but not always through means you’d expect.

My use of photography as a promotional tool has taken some interesting turns over the years, one of which is video gaming. As a relaxing pastime, I play car racing video games and that took a creative turn when I began “painting” race cars for the game “NASCAR Racing 2003”.

Other players of the game can download the cars to use in the game at www.racingrafix.com, a website run by an online friend of mine in Texas.

After painting hundreds of cars, many with South Dakota-related sponsor logos, inspiration struck about making an even bigger splash in the video gaming world. I reached out to a race track builder. Jeff (I don’t even know his full name) in Chicago creates new tracks for those of us who race in the game.

A few email discussions determined that my photographs of South Dakota scenery could make a great backdrop for some fun tracks. “Rushmore Scenic Byway” was born with photos of the Black Hills landscape forming the virtual horizon, including Mount Rushmore, the Needles, Harney Peak and Crazy Horse Memorial. Using Photoshop, I blended several photos into one extra-long panoramic image that encircles the race track, so no matter where a driver turns he sees the Black Hills around him.

We decided to give the track a 1950s feel, so I included buildings and billboards for tourist attractions of that era. Racers negotiate through or past pigtail bridges, tunnels, the 1880 Train, Dinosaur Park and signs for Reptile Gardens, Sitting Bull Caverns, Thunderhead Underground Falls, and more.

“Rushmore Scenic Byway” was a smashing success, with over 1,000 downloads spreading the South Dakota message across the world. We quickly began planning a sequel – “Badlands Byway.” I shot a 360-degree panoramic photo in Badlands National Park for the horizon in this track, which worked well.

With some leftover ideas from “Rushmore Scenic Byway,” we completed a South Dakota track trilogy with “Black Hills Backroads,” this time in black and white. We replaced the completed Mount Rushmore with an under-construction version and removed most of the billboards to drop the timeline of the setting back to the 1940s. 

Both “Badlands Byway” and “Black Hills Backroads” have been well-received with hundreds of downloads. The success of these projects has prompted me to approach other video game developers about including South Dakota in more games. We’ll see if anyone bites and how my photos might be utilized in the future. 

If you are still a bit confused about all of this, maybe a video featuring all three tracks in action will help. 

 

Chad Coppess is the senior photographer at the South Dakota Department of Tourism. He lives in Pierre with his wife, Lisa. To view more of his work, visit www.dakotagraph.com.

Comments

01:16 pm - Mon, January 30 2012
Christian said:
I'm not a gamer, but I have to admit that this is pretty cool. The screen shots look really nice. Nice work.
08:10 pm - Mon, January 30 2012
Robert Remacle said:
Now this is thinking outside of the box and doing something very positive. Great Job I love how it looks and will surely get lots of response from all over the world as South Dakotan's and visitors recognize and share these landmarks.
08:39 am - Wed, February 1 2012
Chad Coppess said:
Thanks guys. Spend any amount of time with me and you'll see some out of the box thinking. For instance, check out my KISS Day promotion from 2008 - http://chadsconcertpix.blogspot.com/search/label/KISS%20Rock%20and%20Roll%20Day. There are more ideas floating around in my brain. We'll see which ones find the light of day.
10:47 am - Wed, February 1 2012
Heidi said:
I love the black and white version (shown in the video). Way to bring back some nostalgia to video gaming!
10:53 am - Mon, February 6 2012
There have been some nice pictures of the Black Hills including Bear Butte.
A number of us have always wanted to see "the bear" in Bear Butte.
As a prominent SD Photographer....have you ever seen "the bear" in Bear Butte?
Would it be possible to enhance a photo to show "the bear" ? Sometimes when star constellations are photographed they are enhanced with "white lines showing "the dipper"..."the swan" etc. Could this also be done with Bear Butte?
09:06 am - Tue, February 7 2012
Chad Coppess said:
Interesting idea Grant. I'll see what I can do.
09:14 am - Wed, February 15 2012
Chad Coppess said:
I talked to Bear Butte State Park Manager Jim Jandreau this morning and he helped me illustrate the "bear." You can see my interpretation at http://www.dakotagraph.com/2012/02/bear-butte-bear-illustrated.html.

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